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Review Roundup: Steam Deck – impressive, but still needs some work

The Steam Deck has a lot of potential, it just needs some time to work out the bugs.

steam deck handheld
Image: KnowTechie

Valve’s Steam Deck has been one of the major talking points in the PC gaming world over the last few months. With the console reaching gamers’ hands in just a few short days, early reviews have started to come out.

It was a bit of a rocky start for the Steam Deck. As it has been with many tech products, the device saw a delay from its original planned release date of December 2021. Still, Valve was able to keep its promise after the initial delay. The device will start shipping to consumers on February 28.

Now, the embargo for early reviews of Valve’s new handheld gaming PC has lifted. Tons of critics have had the chance to see what the Steam Deck has to offer so far. So let’s see what people are saying.

Steam Deck’s hardware seems impressive

steam deck consoles
Image: Steam

Early opinions on the Steam Deck’s hardware seem to be pretty positive. Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier says, “the machine is surprisingly comfortable despite its heft. It has a solid array of controls, including back buttons, and pretty much everything is customizable.”

READ MORE: Steam Deck just launched but Valve is already thinking about a Steam Deck 2

Many people were concerned about the large size of the Steam Deck. But despite being larger than previous handheld consoles, the size doesn’t seem to be a problem. After all, this is a full-on handheld computer.

Impressive controls and in-game performance

valve steam deck games full list
Imag: KnowTechie

And gamers seem to enjoy the overall feel of the Steam Deck. All of the buttons are in smart locations and feel like they are high quality.

Seth Macy of IGN called the ABXY letter buttons on the right “lovely” and says that the thumbsticks “rule.” They did have one minor complaint about the D-pad, which they said was “solid, but just a little mushier than they like.”

READ MORE: The best Steam Deck accessories

Another minor complaint that we’ve seen about the control locations is with the touchpad. “The analog sticks are pushed up to the top by the touchpads, making them feel awkward,” writes CNET’s Dan Ackerman. Fortunately, they can be disabled in-game to avoid any kind of false input.

As for game performance, the Steam Deck is impressing most reviewers so far. People are reporting that most indie and other lightweight games are running amazingly.

Even AAA games are running well on the Steam Deck, though they might drain the battery quickly. But not every Steam game will work on Valve’s handheld PC.

The Steam Deck still has some room to grow

steam deck running windows 11
Image: KnowTechie

Despite these decent first impressions, the Steam Deck still needs some improvement. Firstly, the device is not yet fully compatible with Windows, which means that a good portion of Steam games are not playable.

IGN’s Seth Macy noted several popular games that currently won’t work on the Steam Deck, including Grand Theft Auto V, Halo Infinite, Destiny 2, Lost Ark, and Fortnite.

Steam is working to verify which games will work. But until Windows is fully supported, there will be a massive hole in the number of games that will run correctly on the Steam Deck.

But, even games that aren’t verified have a chance to work. Wes Fenlon of PCGamer said, “I mostly ignored Verified games to play ones I wasn’t sure would work well on the Deck, and I kept finding ones that I really liked playing on it.”

But beyond the lack of compatible games, the rest of the Steam Deck software seems to have some issues.

The Verge’s Sean Hollister writes “every single day I used the Steam Deck, I was dodging error messages, bugs, crashes, black screens, UI glitches, regressions, even entire feature changes from Valve on the eve of release.”

Hollister continues to say that Valve fixed many bugs over the weeks that they were testing the device, but many still remain.

Should you buy the Steam Deck?

steam deck being played
Image: Valve

Gamers don’t usually expect bugs like this from a major gaming console release. But this isn’t just any old console release.

Steam is doing something that has never been done before. The Steam Deck is a full-on gaming computer that you can hold and play in your hands.

And Valve has designed a preorder system for the device’s release that allows it to get the Steam Deck into gamers’ hands, but still gives them time to work out the kinks.

Despite some hiccups and significant issues in early Steam Deck reviews, the overall consensus looks pretty hopeful. Jeff Grubb of VentureBeat says, “I love my powerful desktop and my new consoles, but I would give them up to keep the Steam Deck experience in my hands.”

And as Forbes’s James Evangelho writes, “Valve’s innovative Linux-powered handheld PC has no competition.” If you’re on the fence about pre-ordering the device, consider this: if you jump in the pre-order line now, your Steam Deck will arrive sometime in the fall.

That gives Valve six months to work out the major kinks and unlock full Windows support. By that time, hopefully, the device will have access to the vast majority of the Steam library.

The Steam Deck has the bones to be an innovative PC gaming device, it just needs a little more time for polish.

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Contributing writer with a passion for gaming and tech. Probably getting wrecked by some kids in Rocket League.

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